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Herps of SC/GA
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Stop #6: Francis Marion National Forest, SC
Featured Herp: Scarlet Kingsnake (Lampropeltis triangulum)

aerial showing clearcut, young pines, and older stand
Different stages of forest management

The East Aiken Elementary students made their way from the Pee Dee area of coastal South Carolina, south along the Great Pee Dee River, across the Black River to Georgetown (SC), and finally arrived in Francis Marion National Forest on October 11, 1999. Francis Marion National Forest is one of two National Forests in South Carolina (the other being the three separate compartments of Sumter National Forest). The United States Forest Service, a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, manages the National Forests. [See the Forest Service web site for links to all southern National Forests, including Francis Marion NF; see additional Francis Marion info.]

The Forest Service is responsible for over 191 million acres of federal land in 44 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Many legislative acts throughout the last 100 years or so have contributed to the formation and management of the National Forests. The Creative Act of 1891 created forest reserves from land that was public domain. In 1897 Congress passed the Organic Act to improve and protect forests or secure favorable water flows and to furnish a continuous supply of timber for citizens of the United States. The Act of February 1, 1905 placed the administration of the Nation's forest reserves under the Department of Agriculture. The Weeks Act of 1911 authorized the purchase of private lands to establish National Forests, which allowed the creation of National Forests in the East where there were few public-domain lands.

cleacut with Forest Service sign in foreground

The Multiple Use/Sustained Yield Act of 1960 stated that National Forests would be administered for outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes. National Forests are intended to be managed in a way that provides for the long-term sustainability of the various renewable resources within Forests without impairment of the productivity of the land. The National Forests are managed for multiple uses, on a sustained yield basis, using sound ecological principles.

Public benefits of such management include clean water, wood and paper products, a high quality environment for outdoor recreation, energy and minerals, wilderness preservation, forage for grazing livestock, and abundant fish and wildlife. The multiple-use aspect of National Forests is illustrated by a comparison of the "timber" and "recreation" uses of Forests. The Forest Service anticipates that, in the year 2000, National Forests will generate $110.7 billion from recreation, compared to $3.5 billion from timber harvest.

For additional links to Forest Service places, programs, etc., see: Forest Service home page, Forest Service—Wildlife management, What is the Forest Service?, and Conservation education, including ideas for elementary schools.


Scarlet Kingsnake (Lampropeltis triangulum)

closeup on kingsnake on log
Scarlet kingsnake

As the East Aiken classes walk through the Francis Marion National Forest, they will focus their attention on the impacts of 1989’s Hurricane Hugo. As a result of the winds of Hugo, many pine trees were killed. These dead trees now provide excellent habitat for this week’s animal, the scarlet kingsnake.

A habitat is a place where an organism lives, basically an "address" for an organism. Just as people have different addresses and live in different places, organisms live in different habitats and even have different habitat preferences. Thus, a place (or habitat) that makes a wonderful home for one species may not be suitable for another species. On a broad scale, some species do well in wetlands while others thrive in terrestrial habitats. Some organisms prefer sparsely vegetated sandhills while others need an old hardwood forest habitat. Scarlet kingsnakes seem to live primarily in pine forests, and are sometimes found underneath the loose bark of dead pines.

southeastern distribution

Snakes in the kingsnake genus (Lampropeltis) are commonly kept as pets. As is the case for any pet, the pet owner must be committed to the proper care of the pet so that it remains healthy. An important additional consideration is the "health" of wild populations of snake species. Although keeping small numbers of common snake species can be very educational, one should not remove rare or hard-to-maintain snake species from the wild. For more information on captive rearing and breeding of kingsnakes, see the herpetoculture web site at

>Scarlet Kingsnake Fact Sheet


The Life of General Francis Marion

by Horry and Weems

EXCERPT: "…when British armies, with their Hessian, and Indian, and Tory allies, overran my afflicted country, swallowing up its fruits and filling every part with consternation; when no thing was to be seen but flying crowds, burning houses, and young men, (alas! too often,) hanging upon the trees like dogs, and old men wringing their withered hands over their murdered boys, and women and children weeping and flying from their ruined plantations into the starving woods! When I think, I say, of these things, oh my God! how can I ever forget Marion, that vigilant, undaunted soldier, whom thy own mercy raised up to scourge such monsters, and avenge his country's wrongs.

The Washington of the south, he steadily pursued the warfare most safe for us, and most fatal to our enemies. He taught us to sleep in the swamps, to feed on roots, to drink the turbid waters of the ditch, to prowl nightly round the encampments of the foe, like lions round the habitations of the shepherds who had slaughtered their cubs. Sometimes he taught us to fall upon the enemy by surprise, distracting the midnight hour with the horrors of our battle: at other times, when our forces were increased, he led us on boldly to the charge, hewing the enemy to pieces, under the approving light of day. Oh, Marion, my friend! my friend! never can I forget thee."

(Quote from Peter Horry, in The Life of General Francis Marion, by Horry and Weems — full text available.)

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